Story of Rome - Mary Macgregor
Ten years before the struggle with Hannibal ended, Rome had declared war against Philip, King of Macedonia. This was the beginning of a war that ended with the conquest of the East.
But the Romans soon found that, with Hannibal in Italy, they would have neither time nor troops to spare for Macedonia. So for a time King Philip was left undisturbed, although he had dared to defy the Romans, and in 215 B.C. to make a treaty with Hannibal. Before the battle of Zama too, he sent four thousand Macedonian soldiers to help the Carthaginians in their struggle against Rome.
But when peace was made with Carthage, the day of reckoning with King Philip speedily came. A Roman army of twenty thousand men was sent across the Adriatic to punish him.
The Consul Flamininus was made commander of the Roman army in Greece in 198 B.C., and in the autumn of the following year he met Philip at Cynoscephalæ, where a great battle was fought.
In the morning, before the struggle began, a thick mist hid the armies from one another. Flamininus, wishing to find out the position of the enemy, sent a detachment of cavalry and infantry to reconnoitre.
Suddenly the detachment found itself face to face with the Macedonian reserves, which were stationed on the ridges of the hill named Cynoscephalæ, or Dogshead, as the difficult name is translated in our language.
The Macedonians, being on a higher slope of the hill than the Romans, were at first the more successful.
In their triumph at having worsted even a detachment of Romans, they sent messengers to tell King Philip of their success, and to urge him to bring up the main body of his army without delay.
The king hesitated. He had not expected to meet the enemy that day, and had sent off a large number of his men to forage. His army, too, was on rough and even precipitous ground, which was quite unsuitable for the movement of the phalanx, which needed a wide open space in which to move.
The Macedonian phalanx was as important a part of Philip's army as the elephants had been in that of Hannibal. It was formed by sixteen thousand men in close order, sixteen rows deep, and the men were armed with long spears. These spears were held in such a way that those of the first five ranks reached to the front row, so that a wall of solid steel seemed to stare the enemy in the face.
The eleven ranks behind held their weapons in a slanting position over the heads of those before them, and thus shielded their comrades from the darts aimed at them.
Now the men forming the phalanx marched so close together that they could turn neither to flank nor rear, but must move straight forward. Their spears, which varied from sixteen to fourteen cubits, could only be used for the one forward movement.
In the days of Pyrrhus, the Romans had dreaded the attack of the phalanx, but now they had lost all fear of this body. They were lightly armed, could move swiftly, and had grown used to annoy and defeat it.
On this misty autumn morning, then, in 197 B.C., Philip reluctantly yielded to the wishes of his soldiers, and ordered his army to move to the ground, from which the advanced guard of the Romans had already been driven.
Here he arranged his right wing in the form of a phalanx, and himself led it to charge the left wing of the enemy.
As the solid mass of men moved down the slope of the hill, it gathered force, and struck with such weight against the Romans that they were scattered.
Before, however, Philip's left wing could form, owing to its steep and difficult position, Flamininus was upon it, and his men fought with such vigour and determination that the Macedonians were put to flight.
Then one of the tribune ventured on a daring deed, one which, as it proved successful, really settled the battle.
Instead of joining the rest of the army in pursuit of the left wing of the enemy, he led his men to the rear of King Philip's right wing.
All at once the king saw that something was wrong. His men, who had scattered the left wing of the Roman army, seemed in difficulty. They began to throw away their weapons, to fly from the field. And not only so, but the Romans, who shortly before had been worsted, had now once again turned to face the foe.
Quickly Philip climbed higher up the hill, and then he understood what had happened. For he saw that his men had been attacked in the rear by the Roman tribune, and that they had been seized with panic at finding themselves attacked both before and behind.
It was soon plain that the battle was lost. Rallying the remnant of his cavalry, King Philip put spurs to his horse and fled from the fatal hills of Cynoscephalæ.
The king foresaw that this defeat would strike a great blow at the influence of Macedonia in Greece. Henceforth Greece would be more likely to appeal to Rome than to Macedonia when she was in need of help against her foes.
He therefore saw little good in prolonging a struggle which he felt to be useless. So, collecting the remnant of his army, Philip withdrew to his own dominions.
When Rome heard of the victory of Cynoscephalæ she was greatly pleased, but perhaps her people were even more delighted that after the victory peace was proclaimed. They were growing weary of incessant war.
Flamininus stayed in Greece during 196 B.C., to arrange terms of peace, with the aid of commissioners sent from Rome. It was determined that his decision should be announced at the Isthmian games, which were held at Corinth in the month of July.
Crowds always flocked to see the games, but this year the number of people was greater than ever, for the decree of Rome was awaited with anxiety.
On the appointed day, while the people stood idly talking to one another in the Stadium or racecourse, the herald's trumpet suddenly rang out. When silence was secured this is what he read:—
'The Senate of Rome and Quinctius Flamininus, pro-Consul and Imperator, having conquered King Philip and the Macedonians, declare the following peoples free, without garrison or tribute, in full enjoyment of their respective countries.'
The list of names which followed was drowned, for the people, hearing that freedom was to be granted to many of their towns, burst into loud shouts of joy, which could not be controlled.
At length there was a pause, and the herald again read the names of the favoured towns.
Then in their gratitude the people pressed around Flamininus, until he was in danger of being crushed to death. Garlands and flowers were showered upon him, so that he was forced to beg the people not to smother him in their wild delight. But it was long before the Roman could escape from the expressions of their joy.
Two years later Flamininus, having finished his work in Greece, prepared to return to Rome. Before he left he summoned the free states of Greece to meet him at Corinth, that he might bid them farewell.
Wisely he spoke, telling them to live in 'harmony and moderation.' Then, as a farewell gift, he promised to remove the Roman garrisons from three other towns.
As at the Isthmian games in 196 B.C., so now again, the easily moved people overwhelmed Flamininus with their gratitude. But when at length the tumult grew less, the Roman said that there was a practical proof of their goodwill which he would like them to give to him.
Many Romans had been taken prisoners and sold as slaves in Greece during the wars with Hannibal. These he begged them to set free.
The Greeks were eager to show that their gratitude was sincere. So when Flamininus reached the coast of Epirus, where his fleet was lying, he found a great band of Roman captives awaiting him. They had been ransomed by the grateful citizens.
In Rome, when Flamininus celebrated his triumph, he had in his procession no more splendid trophies than these prisoners, who had been redeemed by his unselfish thought.